I know many breastfeeding moms travel for work and always have the same dilemma: How do I keep my baby exclusively breastfed while I am away? I would like to share with you my experience preparing to travel for on a business trip as a breastfeeding mother to a 5-month old baby girl.
At first, I thought to myself, it is technically impossible. I will be away for five days so, I had to prepare at least 35 bottles for my baby (seven bottles per each day) and also, I had to keep expressing milk while travelling in order to prevent the milk supply drying up. All this aside, I had to deal with the issue of who will take care of my little Hana and wake up in the middle of the night to feed her and what would happen if she developed nipple confusion after spending five days feeding from bottles only …
I was sure that I should turn that invite down but due to the motivation and encouragement of my husband (Thank you Tarek), I gave it more thought and came to the conclusion that with proper organization, it can be done. Here is exactly what I did:
For the milk:
- As soon as I knew I was traveling, I started expressing milk in bottles/freezer bags of meal portions that my baby normally takes per feeding. I started on the 21st of December when my trip date was scheduled for the 14th of February.
- I was supposed to leave at least 35 bottles before I left and I was actually was able to leave her 47 bottles instead.
- During my trip, I made sure to express milk at least every 4 to 5 hours to assure supply is maintained and at the same time to prevent any engorgement or leakage. This included waking up in the middle of the night to express some as well.
- There was a big concern about how I will return to Egypt and pass through airport security with all that expressed milk. I discovered, by coincidence, and only at the airport before taking off, that I couldn’t pass with more than 100ml only (UK airport security guidelines) if my baby is not with me (which is totally unreasonable). If it is more than 100ml, they will request that you dump it which is the last thing on Earth any mom would want to do after all the effort and time spent expressing it. So the solution was to pack the milk in the checked in luggage and not the carry on baggage.
- I took a small ice bag to use during the day (even when attending my meetings) that included milk storage freezer bags, manual pump and 1 bottle. I also took another big ice bag to put all the milk inside on my way back.
- As soon as I checked in the hotel, I informed them about my situation and arranged for a space in the hotel’s freezer to store any milk I expressed until I check out.
- At the end of my stay, I requested all stored milk bags which I wrapped in groups with newspaper to provide extra insulation and placed them all in the big ice bag then in the bag that will be checked in as luggage.
- As soon as I reached home, I placed all the milk in the freezer again which was all still completely frozen anyways. If any thawed, it had to be put in the fridge and used within 24 hours and couldn’t be put back in freezer.
It’s worth mentioning that I prepared almost 95% of all milk before and during my stay by hand expression which I find easier, quicker and more efficient, and non time-consuming time as it doesn’t require clean the pump parts or troubleshooting with the milk flow. Only very few bottles were prepared with a manual pump that I took with me in case of any emergency. And I actually needed it to relieve the dryness that occurred around the areola from the continuous friction of the hand expression.
For my baby:
The plan was that Hana would go to the nursery with her older sister (she already goes on day care basis whenever I have work that can’t be done with her around) from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM on 3 working days and then the nanny will come at 5:30 PM and stay till the next day at 9:00 AM. On Thursday, she will come at 5:30 PM and leave when I arrive early Sunday, (all this under the supervision of my husband) so,:
- I looked for a nanny at Maids and Nannies in Egypt Facebook group.
- I shortlisted two of them out of all the replies/applications I received and brought them for a trial two weeks prior to my trip.
- I explained every single detail about my daughter and what to do, how and when, along with letting her watch at the beginning then just monitoring in the end.
- I prepared Hana’s outfits in full sets of undershirts, sleep suits and bibs to cover all 5 days.
- I took a big bag to Hana’s nursery with all her stuff that she will need for the 3 working days. That included all clothes, diapers, bibs, burping cloths, towel, shampoo and of course, her milk.
- I prepared her diaper bag for the weekend in case they went out.
- I left the nanny sticky notes on the house and bedroom doors, refrigerator and washing machine with some instructions and reminders.
I just want to say that it was challenging but for all the times I spent preparing milk in bathrooms, the living room, the kitchen, the car, in the middle of my sessions and workshops I give, in between meetings and in the middle of the nights, “I DID IT!” and everything was fine.
You too can do it if you find yourself in a similar situation so, never underestimate yourself or turn down a good opportunity because you are actually way stronger than you think you are and you deserve the best of the best.
If you have any questions about pumping, hand expression, storing, packing, …. Please send me or contact me in any way you like. (Contacts below)
And dear Cow, I’m not better than you, actually you make way more milk than I do but, I can do it anywhere and whenever I want.